Third-grader Sergio Pescador signed up for summer violin lessons through a grant-funded program at Ridgecrest Elementary School. He’s back this fall for additional lessons through an after-school program.
“I kind of like music and the violins,” he says. “I like to sing songs so I came here for violin. We learned how to hold our bows, and how to take violins out of cases, and what all the strings are and how they sound.”
His instructor, Landrum Middle School Orchestra Director Katie Hemphill, knows that every hour of practice in second and third grade will add up to big strides later after Sergio and his third-grade friends get hooked on playing violin.
Hemphill began the summer school program with funding from a Texas ACE grant managed by site coordinator Nora Hernandez. Nine third-graders have signed up to continue this fall, and another dozen second-graders are in the first-year pipeline.
Grant funds help pay for the pint-sized practice violins, among other costs.
The instructor is hoping young fiddlers will show up in middle school orchestra, too. Music students who begin playing early in life tend to do better than students who start later in life.
Studies show that music education can improve student grades, as well as cognitive measures like IQ. The violin has a way of capturing hearts, too.
“At the end of the summer program, we played for our parents. My parents said I sounded good so they signed me up for violin again. I like it,” reports third-grade violinist Ethan Gonzalez.
Director Hemphill encourages them all. “When you come to Landrum [Middle] after playing violin in this program, you will have three years of experience and you will be a rock star!” she tells the students as their hour together comes to an end on a recent afternoon.
“Elementary students in many other schools start as early as kindergarten, and the students who begin that young are often the ones who become the Texas All-State players in the high school programs,” she notes. “The more experience all these students can have the better they will do and the better that they will play and achieve.”
“Too many kids in our north side schools do not know what an instrument is. We’d like them to start as early as second or third grade here at Ridgecrest so the practice they get here will help them form a stronger orchestra at Landrum Middle School,” Hernandez says.